10 moonshot ideas Google should tackle next

After self-driving cars and internet balloons

Google X is the innovative lab responsible for what the company calls 'moonshots': projects designed to make great strides forward in science and technology. One of the most well-known of these Google X projects - the self-driving car - is now almost fully realised.

While not all of these ideas meet the criteria that Google X has itself laid down, these are the futuristic innovations we're eager to see developed in the years and decades and centuries to come - even if we never get chance to make use of them personally.

1. Cryogenic sleep

If we're going to actually make our way beyond Earth to the planets and the galaxies beyond, then some kind of sleep hibernation technology is going to be required to get us to far-flung destinations: we've already seen it in countless science-fiction films, which leads us think that Google's boffins should get around to making it a reality in the not-too-distant future... then we really can shoot for the stars.

2. Biometric security


We're already on the right track with Touch ID and similar technologies, but there's plenty more scope for innovation in the field of biometric security: one day we should be able to banish the password and login screen for good. Implanted chips or something similar will eventually be used for proving we are who we say we are, unlocking everything from the garage door to our bank accounts.

3. Teleportation

We tend to take it for granted now that we can get from one part of the globe to another fairly easily (budget and infrastructure permitting) but what we really want to see is a Star Trek-style teleportation device - and maybe the Google X lab can help. Imagine being able to press a button and get from London to Sydney in the space of five minutes. The jet lag might be terrible but it's worth looking into.

4. Ubiquitous, high-speed internet access


Google Fiber is a good start, but imagine having access to high-speed internet wherever you are, free of charge, on whatever device you happen to be using - without even needing to log into a network. With the explosion in smartphone usage and the growing Internet of Things, it seems like this one is an inevitability - but anyone who's been on a walk in the British countryside knows there's a long way to go yet.

5. A cure for cancer

The Google X team has already made positive noises about fighting disease but few are as widespread as this one: in recent years we've seen a number of breakthroughs in the fight against cancer, but being able to eradicate it completely would be one of humankind's biggest triumphs. 1 in 2 people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime.

6. Advanced 3D printing

3D printing

We already have 3D printers of course - but even if you're happy with small, plastic models, we're not. We envisage a future of printing out piping hot meals, made-to-measure clothes and new smartphones - perhaps an impossible ask, but we are talking moonshots here. It would require some kind of molecular manipulation, so we're not expecting this to arrive within the next couple of centuries...

7. Fully immersive virtual reality

This one's a little bit more viable: virtual reality that's fully immersive. Kudos to the makers of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, but we'd like to see a system you can plug into that feels just as real as... well, real life. Presumably it would have to involve some kind of brain-tricking magic to make you believe you really were taking to the field in FIFA or causing mayhem in Grand Theft Auto VR edition.

8. Lightweight exoskeletons


From giving mortal humans a range of new superpowers to helping the paralysed get back on their (robotic) feet, exoskeletons can prove useful in a variety of ways. There are several models already on the market, but they tend to be big, heavy, expensive, power-hungry or all four - if Google X can improve the current technology in all of those areas then we'll be very pleased (and very impressed).

9. Sustainable cities

We all know about the demands we're putting on our planet and Google X could invest its time and energy into investigating how the cities of the future could be more sustainable: imagine a metropolis where the impact on the surrounding environment was zero, from the energy it sucks out of the planet to the waste it puts back in. Fortunately, we're already seeing some good progress made in this area.

10. Time machines


Okay, okay, this is a big one - and chances are that if time travel is ever going to be invented, we would have met a few people from the future by now. But if anyone can put together a fully working time machine, then it's Google's engineers; and if they can make it in the shape of a 1980s sports car with gull-wing doors then so much the better...

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.